It's 2012, Teenage Dream's era had gone on so long it seems like it should be titled Teenage Medically Questionable Extended REM Sleep, and Katy had to make a decision. That decision ended up being releasing "Wide Awake," but let's just stop and try to reconstruct the reasoning here. The first option, and the one that probably comes to mind first, is that she could:

- Retreat and prepare a new album. You suspect Katy wants to put this off as long as possible. Producer Dr. Luke gifted her almost all her hit singles, but that's an arrangement that's no longer possible. She's one of EMI's biggest moneymakers; nobody involved in her career wants uncertainty to mess with that.

There's one way to delay this, though: stretch Teenage Dream and its all-star inventory as much as you can. It's kind of like the flipside of, say, Rihanna's album-a-minute cycle; the albums might be spaced out, but you've still got the same rapid-fire release schedule for singles, and the artist doesn't drop off the radar. You've even got multiple options here, too:

- Release something off Teenage Dream, the original confection. This is ridiculously plausible, actually--"Circle the Drain" and "Hummingbird Heartbeat" are just sitting there, still; but doesn't have much novelty value. So instead, you can go with...

- Release another Teenage Dream bonus track. Yes, this essentially means Katy's upcycling her older demos that didn't quite make the album cut. In other words, if these are confections, they're those cookie recipes you pull out not because triple-chocolate-spice brownies sound amazing but because it's geared especially toward having just one egg, half a stick of butter and leftover jam left in the fridge (here, you're welcome; oh, fine, the former too. Katy Perry's schtick is turning music sites into a recipe-blog linkfarm.)

But since "Circle the Drain" is off-limits--we mention it twice because it deserved to be a single--and "Part of Me" is taken already, you've got two immediate options: "Dressing Up," which would certainly fit Katy Perry's cartoon-Betty Boop flipbook image but which is rather silly; or "Wide Awake": a midtempo after-the-breakup ballad that's polished to resemble a soft-focus montage scene and that she can make about Russell Brand as much or as little as she needs to. We're going to go out on a limb and say it'll be closer to "much" than "little."

At any rate, it seems like it should do pretty well, if not necessary well enough to bait chart records. (I've seen speculation that "Wide Awake"'s release is a direct response to midtempo hits like fun. and Gotye's tracks getting so big, but I don't buy it; the track's certainly less relentless than Katy's other singles, but she's done ballads before.) Shame it couldn't be released earlier, though. That "falling from cloud nine" lyric would've been great, or at least funny, after the now-seemingly-ancient "California Gurls."